Hans von Spakovsky / Sep. 15, 2015

Does Allowing Noncitizens to Be Counted in Redistricting Violate One Person, One Vote Standard?

When states, counties, and towns redraw political districts, is it constitutional for them to include individuals who are ineligible to vote, such as noncitizens? Or does that dilute the vote of eligible citizens and violate the one-person, one-vote standard that the U.S. Supreme Court established for all redistricting fifty years ago in Reynolds v. Sims (1964)? The Supreme Court is set to finally decide this issue in Evenwel v. Abbott — something it has avoided for decades up until this year.

When states, counties, and towns redraw political districts, is it constitutional for them to include individuals who are ineligible to vote, such as noncitizens?

Or does that dilute the vote of eligible citizens and violate the one-person, one-vote standard that the U.S. Supreme Court established for all redistricting fifty years ago in Reynolds v. Sims (1964)?

The Supreme Court is set to finally decide this issue in Evenwel v. Abbott — something it has avoided for decades up until this year.

In Evenwel, two Texas voters claim that including noncitizens in the population used to draw their legislative districts violates the Equal Protection Clause. These voters were placed by the state legislature in senate districts whose voting populations deviate anywhere from 31 to 49 percent from the ideal population of a Texas senate district.

They argue that this disparity significantly dilutes their votes in comparison to those of voters who live in districts with large numbers of non-voters, particularly districts with large number of noncitizens, including illegal aliens who are not eligible to vote.

The basis for the one-person, one-vote standard is the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Under the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment in Reynolds, states must draw districts “on a basis that will insure, as far as is practicable, that equal numbers of voters can vote for proportionally equal numbers of officials.”

This past summer, the Court accepted Evenwel for review. The Supreme Court’s 2015 term begins on October 5, although the date for oral arguments in Evenwel has not yet been set.

Sue Evenwel and Edward Pfenninger claim that their votes are worth roughly half those of voters in other districts. In other words, they argue that their districts were allotted the same number of senators as other districts that contained the same number of people but only half the number of eligible voters.

They are asking the Court to overturn a lower court decision that ruled against them and hold that this violates the one-person, one-vote standard.

In 2001, the Court declined to review another case out of Texas, Chen v. City of Houston, that raised this very same issue. In his dissent from the Court’s refusal to hear that case, Justice Clarence Thomas said that the Court had “left a critical variable in the [one-person, one-vote] requirement undefined.” The Court had “never determined the relevant ‘population’ that States and localities must equally distribute among their districts.”

In his dissent in another case in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals involving this issue, Judge Alex Kozinski pointed out that “at the core of one person one vote is the principle of electoral equality, not that of equality of representation.”

One issue that has been raised in this case is the accuracy and availability of population data on noncitizens who are ineligible to vote.

However, an amicus brief filed on behalf of Evenwel and Pfenninger by a number of demographers states that data about citizen voting-age population is readily available from the Census Bureau through the American Community Survey. That data is in widespread use by the U.S. Justice Department and other federal, state, and local government agencies.


Republished from The Daily Signal.

Start a conversation using these share links:

Who We Are

The Patriot Post is a highly acclaimed weekday digest of news analysis, policy and opinion written from the heartland — as opposed to the MSM’s ubiquitous Beltway echo chambers — for grassroots leaders nationwide. More

What We Offer

On the Web

We provide solid conservative perspective on the most important issues, including analysis, opinion columns, headline summaries, memes, cartoons and much more.

Via Email

Choose our full-length Digest or our quick-reading Snapshot for a summary of important news. We also offer Cartoons & Memes on Monday and Alexander’s column on Wednesday.

Our Mission

The Patriot Post is steadfast in our mission to extend the endowment of Liberty to the next generation by advocating for individual rights and responsibilities, supporting the restoration of constitutional limits on government and the judiciary, and promoting free enterprise, national defense and traditional American values. We are a rock-solid conservative touchstone for the expanding ranks of grassroots Americans Patriots from all walks of life. Our mission and operation budgets are not financed by any political or special interest groups, and to protect our editorial integrity, we accept no advertising. We are sustained solely by you. Please support The Patriot Fund today!

★ PUBLIUS ★

“Our cause is noble; it is the cause of mankind!” —George Washington

The Patriot Post is protected speech, as enumerated in the First Amendment and enforced by the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, in accordance with the endowed and unalienable Rights of All Mankind.

Copyright © 2021 The Patriot Post. All Rights Reserved.

The Patriot Post does not support Internet Explorer. We recommend installing the latest version of Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, or Google Chrome.